Students hold Transgender Day of Remembrance Vigil

The Nov. 20 event included discussions of gender-neutral student housing and ways to raise awareness of Elon's transgendered community.

A dozen students and faculty joined together in front of Moseley Center on Sunday evening for the International Transgender Day of Remembrance Vigil, a gathering to remember transgendered individuals who have lost their lives through prejudicial violence.

Holding cups with battery-powered votive candles, participants took turns reading from prepared remarks that, among other points, cited statistics on the national rate of suicide attempts in the transgendered community, which one survey found to be as high as 41 percent. The group also discussed transgendered issues and concerns on campus.

Broadly defined, “transgendered” refers to any person who does not identify with his or her gender role as a male or female based on sex organs. The community also includes transsexuals and cross dressers.

The event was organized by SPECTRUM, Elon University’s student group for self-identified LGBTQ individuals and their heterosexual allies and supporters. SPECTRUM president and university senior Jess McDonald said the international day of remembrance was “an easy place to start” in the organization’s efforts to raise awareness of transgender students on campus.

At least six students have self-identified as transgendered to Elon’s recently created LQBTQ Office. Issues that were discussed included a desire for more gender-neutral campus housing where sex isn’t a consideration for roommates or suite mates; more gender-neutral bathrooms; and additional options for students on forms that ask for gender identification.

“We clearly need more understanding of transgendered issues across campus,” said Associate Professor Kirstin Ringelberg, coordinator of the LGBTQ Office at Elon University and a faculty member in the Department of Art and Art History. “Traditionally, Elon has split into three camps – lesbian and gay, queer and straight.”

Students afterward expressed a variety of personal reasons for attending the vigil, but the overarching theme of supporting friends in the transgendered community pervaded their answers.

Elon junior Eliza Gibson, a human services studies major from Waterford, Va., said she’s encouraged by evolving discussions. Organizers had said during the vigil that university administrators have shown an open attitude toward studying gender neutrality in some housing assignments.

“If people know it’s happening and have an opportunity to support it, that’s a valuable next step,” Gibson said. “It’s more than just awareness. There’s a change in the community.”